Tartu

 

The town of Tartu lies in a valley formed by the Emajõgi (a river running through the middle of the town) that runs from West to east to eventually  drain into Lake Peipsi that forms a boundary with Russia.  The town is built up along the gentle slopes of the river. Somewhere near the river is where I will be living only 10 minutes away from the main part of the old University.  This is a one bedroom apartment with a sauna!  As one walks along the river’s edge toward the central part of the town, one can see bridges crossing Emajõgi, new hotels, shopping centers, and apartment buildings that have been built since 1991.

A former moat, now a street, cuts out the Cathedral Hill whose park grounds are situated right up the hill from Tartu University.  On the Cathedral Hill (Toomemägi) is the large ruin (see page on Tartu University) of the former Cathedral of St. Peter and Paul.  Once it was a three-aisled basilica, with each of the side aisles having a low chapel aisle, with a high roomy choir.  This structure was completed at the end of the 15-th century and took two centuries to build.  It was destroyed by the fire of 1624 and only ruins remain of most of the building.  At the beginning of the 19th century, the high choir was repaired and presently houses part of the University’s library and  a concert hall. The Cathedral Hill was already a holy place in prehistoric times and in the present day as one walks along the paths of the park, various sacrifical stones (ohvrikivid) can still be seen.  Besides this beautiful Cathedral ruin, only one other structure of medieval Tartu remains, Jaani kirik (the church of St. John), which is also a brick building. In the town square is a late-baroque style, pink town hall building.  In front of town hall is a fountain with a whimsical statue of a kissing pair holding an umbrella.  The Town Hall square is not far from the main building of Tartu University with its columned portico. The historic streets of the old town here are narrow and it is hard to get a good photo of the University’s classical building.